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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

THE DANGER OF “MISSION CREEP”

One of the key principles of strategy is to “select and maintain the aim or objective”. This principle is furthermore found in the principles of war and in the principles of the offense.

This principle follows closely on the heels of another fundamental truth – Strategy must adhere to the political guidelines as contained in the political strategy. This is due to the fact that military strategy is simply an extension of the political strategy or a manifestation of a country’s foreign policy.

This principle is aimed at ensuring that commanders do not lose focus on their primary and secondary objectives but instead focus their forces on either destroying or neutralising those objectives. Additionally, this principle ensures that commanders are not side-tracked from their mission and that all possible deviations from the primary and secondary objectives have been carefully appreciated and planned.

The final military strategy is tested against the numerous principles of strategy and war.

Each operational plan is also tested against the principles of that particular phase(s) of warfare that is to be executed during the operation.

During the appreciation and plan, the Intelligence Officer (IO) represents the enemy commander and, based on his knowledge of the enemy, presents the enemy’s most likely and most dangerous courses of action. This allows the commander to ensure that his plan is both flexible and workable, that he never loses sight of the allocated objectives and that he is able to cope with any unexpected enemy actions.

In order to fulfil his task effectively, the IO needs “intelligence” if he is to advise his commander correctly. Without “intelligence”, commanders are blind as all strategies and tactical actions are intelligence driven.

However, a new word has crept into the military’s ever-expanding terminology - “mission creep”. Along with this comes “exit strategy” – something I regard as a “defeat and withdrawal with honour” – if there can be such a thing.

But of late, a lot has been said and written about “mission creep” and how important it is to counter this phenomenon.

Many will disagree with me but I believe that mission creep exists because strategists and planners have failed to strategise and plan. Alternatively, their strategies and plans were never intelligence-driven but instead were based on arrogance, guesstimates and best-case scenarios. Coupled to the lack of strategy and planning comes interference at political level, usually contrary to the initial guidelines supplied, which breaks the military focus and alters the objectives. This, in turn, forces commanders to adapt or change their unit’s mission profile and posture and alter their initial military objectives.

A lack of focus on the objective allows the commanders to become side-tracked with issues that are often unrelated to the objective and in order to cope with this deviation, more troops are called for. This is one of the reasons why “troop surge strategies” are implemented. But, I have had my say on what I perceive to be a misguided approach – unless of course, a war of attrition is being fought. But it is highly unlikely that modern society will adopt and execute a long-term war of attrition, especially in terms of casualties and costs.

I am therefore somewhat surprised when “mission creep” is mentioned as something that is inevitable. I believe it is due to a total intelligence failure and subsequent poor strategies and plans.

But, perhaps I am wrong?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

ONE YEAR OLD...

Exactly one year ago, I wrote and posted for the first time on this blog.

What started out – on a recommendation from my wife – as a forum to set the record straight on numerous issues that have bothered (and still bother) me has grown somewhat beyond my expectations.

I have had some excellent comments from those who follow the blog and also some (very valid) reprimands. As a whole, I am happy with the way things are going as I am still able to voice my opinions and concerns – and in the process learn from so many different visitors from across the globe.

However, over the past year I have, unfortunately, had to banish some from the blog who have not realised that this is a serious look at military and security affairs.

My concerns lie primarily with the soldiers and security officers who I believe are often neglected by their political masters and when things turn bad, have to take the blame for poorly formulated strategies and sometimes inexcusable and inexplicably poor political decisions. Sometimes senior officers also need to take responsibility for poor decisions and for not having the backbone to stand up for their troops and ensure that they get the correct equipment at the correct place and time.When this support is lacking and casualties rise, morale will be affected.

The lot of the soldier – be it in an armed force or as a contractor in a PMC – is not an easy one. But, we never put ourselves out there because we thought it would be easy. We know the role of the politicians and the senior officers and we know our role – and we accept it with stoicism. However, if I, in a small way, can contribute to saving the lives of soldiers with some small bit of advice, irrespective of where they are deployed, I will feel that the blog has not been in vain.

The blog has allowed me to re-establish contact with some fellow-soldiers I last saw many years ago and also to make new friends and contacts throughout the world. With followers and daily visitors from 98 countries, I feel honoured to be able to “speak” to so many about things I believe in – even though not everyone agrees with me – and, as far as I am concerned, that is healthy.

I have, over the course of the year, received several suggestions from those who follow this blog on what they would like me to write about. Some of these issues I have tried to cover and some I will still get to. Some, especially where purely political in nature, I shall not debate as I am not a politician – and have no intention of becoming one.

To those who visit the blog simply to read it or to make comments - you have all contributed to making this a good year.

My sincerest thanks to each and every one of you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

HAS WAR CHANGED THAT DRASTICALLY?

I often read essays on the “modern” conflict and find myself totally confused. New words and phrases abound to the point where I am not actually sure of what the author is writing about.

As a young soldier, I learnt about conventional warfare and unconventional warfare. Counter Insurgency (COIN) was viewed as a part of warfare utilising unconventional methods and tactics. Today I read about “asymmetrical warfare”, “hybrid warfare” and “kinetic” and “non-kinetic” actions. Even soldiers are no longer soldiers – they are now warfighters. The soldier’s rifle has become a Personal Defence Weapon (PDW) or an Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW).

Where will all of this end? – or is the aim to confuse ourselves more than we are able to confuse the enemy?

In my mind, “war” has always been war – and it has always been fought by “soldiers”. Whereas the weapons have evolved, the aim has always been the same: annihilate the enemy or exhaust the enemy to a point where he no longer desires to continue with the conflict. Today, I find myself exhausted just trying to understand the new terms, phrases and acronyms that abound and confuse me.

I was about to give up on the subject of war until I stumbled across William F Owen’s excellent article about the new language that has become part of the military make-up. (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2009/11/4114043)

Somehow, this all reminds me of organisations that when faced with a task they cannot accomplish, create a new impressively-sounding term or phrase along with a new department and then simply continue with their incompetence. This gives them an excuse to waste time and money whilst trying to discover adaptive and complex solutions to the overcome the hybrid actions against them.

Military commanders - or perhaps one should call them “warfighter managers” - no longer command men – instead they “manage” them. Surely, there is a very distinct difference between an army and a commercial enterprise?

If I were still a serving soldier, I would much rather have a commander than a manager.

The discipline in a commercial enterprise cannot match that of a military unit where instructions and orders are to be obeyed the instant they are issued. Is the military not shooting itself in the foot by trying to turn commanders into managers, despite the fact that this softly-softly style of command can never succeed? Although the armed forces may serve a democracy, they cannot be run along democratic or commercial enterprise lines.

Bad military strategies cannot be rectified by Fortune-500 management styles.

Despite enormous developments in weapons and battlefield technology, the nature of war hasn’t changed that much. Why try to develop a new language to cope with age-old military problems that have been faced before by soldiers – or are these words and terms simply there to make excuses as to why strategies are failing?

Throwing around new words, phrases and acronyms does not make one competent or efficient. It is practicing the basics in a disciplined, planned and controlled manner that leads to success.